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Subhas Anandan had 'a heart of gold beneath tough exterior'

Many speak highly of the late lawyer's compassion, his pro bono work and his belief in access to fair representation for all accused persons

Mr Subhas represented high-profile murder accused such as Anthony Ler, Took Leng How and Leong Siew Chor of the Kallang body parts case.


TRIBUTES poured in from the legal fraternity on Wednesday as news spread that one of their own and one of Singapore's leading criminal lawyers, Subhas Anandan, had died from heart failure at the age of 67.

The prominent lawyer, who had long-standing heart and kidney ailments, was undergoing dialysis at the Singapore General Hospital when his heart stopped.

In a statement, his family said they were grateful for the outpouring of condolences and love for him, but asked for privacy to grieve.

News of his death shook the legal fraternity, especially those close to him.

Long-time friend and fellow lawyer Noor Mohamed Marican, who said he had known Mr Subhas and his family for more than 45 years, said:

"He was like a brother to me and we would stand by each other in good and bad times.

"I have witnessed personally the extent to which Subhas would go to help the man in the street and seen him emptying his pockets for the less fortunate. His selflessness and genuine compassion for the poor is his legacy, which we will all look to continue."

Lawyer Josephus Tan, to whom Mr Subhas was a mentor, said he looked up to the lawyer of 40 years' standing "like a father".

Mr Tan said he had learned a lot from him and also recalled fondly his compassion and pro bono work: "Beneath the tough exterior lay a heart of gold. He was always working to help society and that greatly inspired me."

The senior partner and founding member of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing and president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers in Singapore (ACLS) had, through his career, built a reputation for defending notorious criminals, often pro bono.

Among his more high-profile clients were convicted murderers Anthony Ler, who hired a teenager to kill his wife in 2001; Took Leng How, a vegetable packer who befriended and then killed eight-year-old girl Huang Na in 2004; and Leong Siew Chor, who chopped up a woman he killed in the Kallang body parts case.

Mr Subhas' colleague and senior partner Rajan Menon described him as "a man of integrity, boundless energy, passion, compassion, generosity and a staunch defender of the rule of law".

"People who have been helped by Subhas - and there have been so many - will know that beneath that stern and fierce demeanour was one of the kindest, warmest of men you could ever meet. He gave wholeheartedly to those to whom he could."

In a statement, the Association of Muslim Lawyers (AML) noted that when Mr Subhas set up the ACLS in 2004, he established Singapore's first criminal legal aid scheme which did not require a means test for the benefit of hundreds of accused persons.

The AML also expressed its gratitude to the late lawyer for his help last October in launching the Yellow Ribbon Fund Subhas Anandan Star Bursary Award, through which ex-offenders can pursue education and turn over a new leaf.

Tributes also came in from Law Minister K Shanmugam, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Attorney-General (AG) V K Rajah.

Extending his deepest condolences to the grieving family, Mr Shanmugam said that Mr Subhas' name was "synonymous with tenacity in court, a sharp intellect and above all, a generous heart". In a Facebook post, he said: "Subhas' strong sense of justice has made him a legal legend to the Bar as well as the general public. His unswerving belief in fair representation for the accused, and granting them a second chance in life, makes him an inspiring role model for the rest of the Criminal Bar."

Separately, CJ Menon said Mr Subhas was "honest and fearless" but always courteous. "He did his work with great passion and inspired many of his colleagues at the Bar. He will be greatly missed."

Mr Menon added that Mr Subhas had been of great assistance to him during his tenure as AG, by patiently explaining some of the issues that were facing the Criminal Bar; this led to regular series of dialogues with senior members of the Bar.

Echoing similar sentiments, AG Rajah said Mr Subhas was "well respected by the Bench and Bar for his admirable forthrightness in the presentation of his legal submissions and an uncanny legal acumen that identified the most persuasive points to be made - even in apparently "hopeless cases".

The funeral and cremation will be held at around 5pm on Thursday at the Mandai Crematorium, said a family spokesman.

Mr Subhas leaves behind his wife Vimala and son Sujesh.